Probability Analysis and Database of JFK Assassination Witness Deaths
Richard Charnin (TruthIsAll)
Updated: April 1, 2014
There has been much discussion and controversy regarding the number of unnatural JFK-related witness deaths that occurred following the assassination. The deaths were a combination of homicides, suicides, accidents and undetermined origin. This analysis of the probabilities of the deaths occurring over 1-15 year time intervals has been updated in Executive Action: JFK Witness Deaths and the London Times Actuary.
Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination is a reference text of 1400+ suspects, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators. The JFK Calc spreadsheet includes 97 witnesses listed in “Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination”.
JFK Calc is a spreadsheet database of 126 JFK-related witnesses, of which 122 occurred from 1964-78. The spreadsheet contains the date of death, witness category and connection to the case as well as detailed probability calculations. Of the 126 witnesses, at least 80 met unnatural deaths (homicides, suicides, accidents, unknown); the others were suspicious heart attacks and illnesses, etc. JFK Calc has all the information required for a robust analysis: a) known witness universe, b) official cause of death, c) average unnatural mortality rates and d) the relevant time period (1964-1978).
Some have questioned the relevance of the unnatural and suspicious witness deaths related to the assassination, but 68 were called to testify in four investigations: 30 testified at the Warren Commission, 18 were sought by prosecutor Jim Garrison at the Clay Shaw trial, 9 by the Church Senate Intelligence Committee, 25 at the House Select Committee on Assassinations (14 were sought in sought in two investigations). These witnesses were indisputably relevant – as were others who were not sought to testify.
The probability analysis is straightforward; it is not a theoretical exercise. It is a mathematical proof of conspiracy based on historic mortality statistics, death rates. The probabilities are calculated using the Poisson formula. This is a challenge to those who claim that the deaths do not prove a conspiracy: To substantiate your claim, you must refute the witnesses cause of death, unnatural mortality rates and the Poisson formula.
An actuary engaged by the London Times calculated the probability that at least EIGHTEEN witnesses would die within three years of the JFK assassination as 1 in 100,000 TRILLION. The calculation is mentioned in the 1973 film Executive Action based on a book by the original JFK researcher and lawyer Mark Lane. The film starred Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Will Geer.
The actuary’s probability is actually very conservative. At least 42 JFK-related witnesses died unnaturally in the three years following the assassination. Using the 0.000220 WEIGHTED JFK-witness mortality rate, the probability is E-53 (1/TRILLION^4).
The number of deaths spiked during the 1977-78 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigation of the JFK and MLK murders. The HSCA determined that both were conspiracies.
Warren Commission apologists have suggested that there were many more than 1,400 witnesses. The FBI claimed to have interviewed 25,000. But how many were material? The probability that 25 of 25,000 witnesses would be murdered in the three years following the assassination is 2E-11 or 1 in 40 billion.
To put these numbers in perspective, there are approximately 7E17 (700,000 trillion) grains of sand on the earth and 3E23 (300 billion trillion) stars in the universe.
Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson, provides information on more than 1,400 JFK-related individuals (suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators) involved in the assassination.The book is based on years of research using a wealth of data sources and a detailed analysis of the Warren Commission’s twenty-six volumes.
Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination, by Richard Belzer and David Wayne, is a comprehensive analysis of fifty witness deaths and cites the probability calculations presented here.
Crossfite by Jim Marrs lists 103 individuals related to the assassination who died mysteriously from 1963-1978. Lee Harvey Oswald is not on the list but should be. The list was the starting point used in the analysis.
Suppose that on Nov. 22, 1963, 1400 individuals were selected at random from the entire U.S. population. Further suppose that within one year, at least 18 would die unnaturally under mysterious circumstances. Based on unnatural death mortality rates, only 1 in a random group of 1400 would be expected to die unnaturally.
There are two possibilities. The 18 unnatural deaths were…
1) unrelated. It was just a 1 in 1000 trillion coincidence.
2) related. There was a common factor -a connection- between them.
We can confidently rule out 1). Then if the 18 unnatural deaths were related, what was the connection?
Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. – Arthur Conan Doyle
COINCIDENCE OR CONNECTION?
There were at least 18 unnatural deaths of JFK-related witnesses within one year of the assassination. In any given year, only one unnatural death would be expected in a random group of 1400. The probability that at least 18 would die unnaturally in any given year is 1 in 1000 trillion (see the mathematical proof below).
The 18 deaths could not have been a coincidence. There had to be a COMMON FACTOR. It could have been a) they were interviewed by the Warren Commission, b) scheduled to be interviewed, c) were in the commission witness index or d) related and not interviewed. If they were JFK-related, the deaths were not random. One must therefore conclude that the assassination was a conspiracy.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, was shot by Jack Ruby in front of millions of television viewers on Nov. 24, 1963. He was conveniently disposed of before he could get a lawyer after claiming that he was “just a patsy”. The transcript of Oswald’s interrogation was destroyed.
In 1977, seven top FBI officials died suddenly in the six months from June to November. Two had testified to the Warren Commission; two were #3 FBI officials; two were forensic experts. William Sullivan, a #3 FBI official, died from an “accidental” gunshot while hunting, just before he was scheduled to testify at HSCA. James Cadigan, an FBI document expert, died from a fall in his home. The others died from heart attacks.
THE LONDON TIMES AND THE HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ASSASSINATIONS
In a response to a letter from the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations, London Sunday Times Legal Manager Anthony Whitaker wrote: “Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition – the one which goes to the United States – had gone out, and later editions were amended. There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked ” what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time” to which he replied -correctly – that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter – hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize”.
That settled the matter for the HSCA which did not bother to ask U.S. mathematicians to analyze the probabilities. One must ask: Why not?
Whitaker obfuscated a very simple mathematical problem: to determine the probabilities of unnatural JFK-related deaths over relevant time intervals: 1, 3, 14 years. He did so by leaving out the word unnatural.
The Times legal manager made two fundamental errors. The first was an incomplete and misleading statement of the problem. He implicitly assumed deaths of all types, natural and unnatural. He did not distinguish between the two categories. The probability calculations must be based on the expected number of unnatural (not total) deaths.
The second error was the omission of relevant numerical data: He did not provide unnatural death mortality statistics. He failed to show the probability calculations. Why not? Was it because it would prove that the actuary’s calculation was essentially correct?
If the London Times was interested in the truth, it would have confirmed these results:
1. Incorrect problem definition: Calculate the probability that 15 named JFK-witnesses would die in one year
Given the 1964 unnatural death rate (0.000825), the probability is 0.000825^15 that 15 named individuals would die unnaturally. The odds that 15 named individuals would die of any cause is of course much higher.
2. Correct definition: Calculate the probability that at least 15 material witnesses in a known group would die unnaturally in one year
Given the unnatural 1964 death rate, the probability that at least 15 of 1400 JFK witnesses would die unnaturally in 1964 is 1 in 445 billion (E-12 or ZERO for all practical purposes). Of course, the odds that at least 15 would die of any cause is much higher: 1 in 2.
CALCULATING THE PROBABILITY: THE POISSON DISTRIBUTION
The probability calculations are based on the 0.000815 average annual unnatural mortality rate in 1964-78.
The probability P of at least n unnatural deaths in a group of N individuals, for time period T years, given unnatural mortality rate R, is P(n)= Poisson(n, E), where E=R*N*T is the expected number of unnatural deaths. As E increases, the probability increases. The probabilities of various unnatural deaths for a range of witnesses is displayed in a Probability Sensitivity Matrix.
The Poisson distribution is used to calculate the probability of a rare event when the probability of an event (P) is very small and the number of trials (N) is large, and therefore the expected number of events (P*N) is a moderate-sized quantity.
The probability of an unlikely event is calculated in Excel as P = POISSON (n, a, type) where n is the observed number of events; a is the expected number; type is a logical value that determines the form of the probability distribution, discrete (False) or cumulative (True).
In 1964, the annual unnatural death rate was 0.000825. Therefore, the expected number of unnatural deaths in 1964 in a random group of 1400 was 1.155 = 000825*1400. In other words, we would normally expect approximately ONE unnatural death in the group. But there were n=18 unnatural witness deaths within one year of the assassination.
N = 1400 = number of witnesses
n = 18 = number of unnatural deaths in 1964
a = 1.155 = 000825*1400 = expected number of unnatural deaths
The Poisson formula is: P(n) = a^n * exp (-a) / n!
P (18) = 6.55E-16 = 1.155^18 * exp (-1.155) / 18!
The probability of EXACTLY n=18 unnatural deaths:
P (n) = Poisson (n, a, false)
P (18) = Poisson (18, 1.155, false) = 6.55E-16.
P (18) = 1 in 1,526,824,370,949,295
The probability of AT LEAST 18 unnatural deaths:
P (>17) = 1 – Poisson (17, 1.155, true)
P (>17) = 7.77E-16 or 1 in 1,286,742,750,677,285
At least 30 of 552 witnesses died suspiciously (n=18 unnaturally) in the T=15 years from 1964-1978. Normally, 7 unnatural deaths would be expected. Using the 0.000257 weighted witness mortality rate, the probability of at least 18 deaths is ZERO:
P = E-11 = 1- POISSON (17, 2.13, false)
P = 1 in 60 billion
Now let’s calculate the probability of at least 11 homicides. Using the annual 1964-78 national homicide rate (0.000084), we would expect one homicide among the 552 Warren Commission witnesses. E = 0.65 = 552*15*0.000084
The probability of at least 11 homicides is:
P = 1 – Poisson (n-1, E, true)
P = 1 – Poisson (10, 0.70, true)
P = 2.54E-10 = 1 in 4 billion
Approximately 1100 material witnesses were sought to testify in four JFK-related investigations: Warren Commission, Garrison/Shaw Trial, Senate Intelligence Hearings and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). At least 67 of the 1100 died under suspicious circumstances and are included in the JFK Calc witness database. It is obvious that the 31 WC witnesses who died unnaturally and suspiciously were relevant; they testified. The vast majority of the others sought in the three investigations that followed died suspiciously shortly before they could testify.
Of the 67 deaths, 39 were unnatural (28 homicides). Twelve died from suspiciously timed heart attacks and 12 from illnesses and natural causes.
David Ferrie supposedly committed suicide a few days before he was scheduled to testify before a grand jury at the Clay Shaw trial in 1967.
Sam Giancana was murdered before he had a chance to testify at the Church Senate hearings in 1975.
George de Morenschildt supposedly shot himself the day he was notified of his interview by the HSCA.
Seven (7) top FBI officials died within a six month period in 1977 prior to their scheduled testimony at the HSCA. And there were many more.
Unweighted and Weighted Mortality Rates (1964-78)
Nationally, accidents comprised 66% of unnatural deaths compared to 11% for homicides, but 34 of 78 (44%) JFK-related deaths were ruled homicides. The rates must be weighted by cause of death to calculate probabilities. If restricted to homicides, the calculation is simple as it is based on just one rate.
The weighted rate is the sum-product of the individual unnatural rates and corresponding deaths:
R = 0.000246 = (34*0.0000808 + 16*0.000130 + 24*0.000594 + 4*0.00001)/78
1964-78 Average Unnatural Mortality Rates
Homicide (34): 0.000084
Accident (24): 0.000594
Suicide (16): 0.000130
Unknown (4): 0.000014
Total Unnatural (78): 0.000822
1964-78 Average Natural Mortality Rates
Other : 0.001025
Total Natural (44): 0.009385 /strong>
1964-78 Average Mortality
LONDON TIMES ACTUARY (1964-1966)
At least 18 deaths (13 unnatural); assume 454 witnesses
Normally, 2 unnatural deaths would be expected.
Using the 0.000209 weighted rate, the probability is
P = E-17 = POISSON (13, .29, true)
P = 1 in 100,000 trillion
WARREN COMMISSION- 418 witnesses (CIA)
Normally, 5 unnatural deaths would be expected.
Using the 0.00057 WC witness rate, the probability of at least 18 deaths is ZERO:
P = E-13 = 1- POISSON (17, 1.61, false)
P = 1 in 5 trillion
Probability of at least 11 homicides is ZERO:
P = E-11 = 1-POISSON(10, 0.53, false)
P = 1 in 70 billion
1400 MATERIAL WITNESSES (Who's Who in the JFK Assassination)
1964-66: at least 42 officially ruled unnatural deaths
Normally, 3 would be expected.
Using the 0.000213 weighted rate, the probability is ZERO:
P = 2.75E-54 = POISSON (42, 0.89, false)
P = 1 in 1 trillion trillion trillion trillion
1964-78: at least 78 officially ruled unnatural deaths
Normally, 17 would be expected.
Using the 0.000247 weighted rate, the probability is ZERO:
P = 2.76E-62 = POISSON (78, 5.18, false)
P = 1 in 1 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion
1964-78: at least 34 officially ruled homicides
Normally, 2 would be expected.
Using the 0.000084 average national homicide rate, the probability is ZERO:
P = E-31 = POISSON (34, 1.57, false)
P = 1 in 6 million trillion trillion
Probability that EXACTLY n out of 1400 witnesses die unnaturally in one year
(declines EXPONENTIALLY as n increases)
n PROBABILITY 1 in
0 3.15E-01 3
1 3.64E-01 3
2 2.10E-01 5
3 8.09E-02 12
4 2.34E-02 43
5 5.40E-03 185
6 1.04E-03 963
7 1.71E-04 5,834
8 2.47E-05 40,409
9 3.18E-06 314,873
10 3.67E-07 2,726,172
11 3.85E-08 25,963,547
12 3.71E-09 269,751,135
13 3.29E-10 3,036,159,956
14 2.72E-11 36,801,938,859
15 2.09E-12 477,947,257,903
16 1.51E-13 6,620,914,395,190
17 1.03E-14 97,450,688,067,732
18 6.58E-16 1,526,824,370,949,295
19 4.00E-17 24,983,141,484,728,104
20 2.31E-18 432,608,510,558,062,460
21 1.27E-19 7,865,609,282,873,863,200
22 6.67E-21 149,821,129,197,597,360,000
Mark Lane is the lawyer who would have represented Oswald. He is the author of several landmark books on the Kennedy assassination. Rush to Judgment was the seminal book which debunked the Warren Commission.
In this video, Lane interviews Penn Jones, a JFK researcher who investigated the strange deaths of many assassination witnesses.
JFK-related witnesses and cause of death.
A summary of JFK deaths.
The Conspiracy Zone shows the analysis presented here.
The Men Who Killed Kennedy
The Forgotten Victims to a Genuine Conspiracy - Part 1
The Forgotten Victims to a Genuine Conspiracy - Part 2